Director Zach Parrish, producer Brad Simonsen, and choreographers Keone and Mari Madrid met for a Q&A for their new short film “Us Again.” They answered questions about what inspired the making of “Us Again,” behind-the-scenes secrets, the film’s message, and more!
“Us Again” is the first theatrical Disney Animation short film in five years, debuting alongside Raya and the Last Dragon in theatres.
Zach Parrish’s inspiration for “Us Again”
Out of four different short film pitches from Parrish, “Us Again” was the winner. Parrish says his inspiration for the short film stems from “struggling with the changes that go along with aging.”
Exploring his inner struggle with aging, Parrish went onto have a discussion with his mother about it. “She would always talk about all the great things that she was gonna do when she grew up,” says Parrish.
“It really made me stop and realize that I kind of had my priorities wrong. I was looking in the wrong direction. If I’m always looking in the past, then I’m gonna miss the beauty in the now. I’m old by my own definition and she’s young by hers,” added Parrish.
These conversations with his mother went on to influence the story and characters of “Us Again.” “Youth being a state of mind” was a driving force for the project.
The Unique Approach of the Score
“As we started the process, Zach knew the foundation of this had to be in music,” says Simonsen. Since the short film heavily relies on music and dancing, they needed to nail the score.
Pinar Toprak scored “Us Again.” Toprak has worked with Disney before, having written the score for “Captain Marvel.”
“The vision for this was always to have a funk-soul, old and now feeling,” says Simonsen. It just so happened that Toprak is a huge fan of funk music, making her a perfect fit for the project.
When working on the short film, the team ran into a “chicken and the egg” problem. “We had to have the music in order to inspire the dance. We had to have the story to inspire the dance, but we needed the dance to inspire the story” says Parrish.
Traditionally, the score for a film records after filming completes. In the case of “Us Again,” the animators would need the finished score early to inspire the choreography of the characters, which the flow of the story relied on. Luckily, Toprak was up for the challenge, who Simonsen says was an “incredible collaborator.”
Keone and Mari involvement with “Us Again”
Keone and Mari’s involvement with the film began in April 2019 after being contacted by Parrish and Simonsen. Even in the pitching process of the short film, Parrish remembers using the couple’s dance videos as a reference for his vision.
Mari was six months pregnant when joining the project (the couple’s child also made a surprise cameo during the Q&A). Mari still pinches herself that she and her husband got the chance to work with Disney, describing the process as “a dream.”
“We’ve been trying to tell stories through dance our entire careers,” says Keone. Keone discussed how both he and Disney try to tell stories through dancing. Instead of just mapping out the choreography, Keone and Mari also had the opportunity to contribute to the short film’s story.
The Symbolism of Rain
“I knew I wanted to do a fountain of youth story,” says Parrish. Wanting to tell a story about recapturing youth, Parrish thought about using water to capture his vision. Parrish reflected on playing in the rain as a child to imagine how to implement it into the short film.
“For me growing up, it was such a joy to go out and play in the rain,” says Parrish. “When thinking about water mechanisms as this fountain of youth, the rain just felt like this perfect fit. It makes you feel like a kid again,” says Parrish.
“Using that to inspire the actual transition of the characters felt perfect and also felt really good to me to have that be this night of passion and rediscovery for this couple who are just out there being kids together,” Parish added.
Zach Parrish reveals Easter Eggs
Since “Us Again” was inspired by “Fantasia,” Parrish spoiled that the short film would contain many references to the classic Disney animated film. Parrish also told viewers to look for easter eggs in the choreography and settings of the short film.
Important themes in “Us Again”
Everyone present in the Q&A shared what they hope viewers take away from “Us Again.”
“Love and being present with one another” is what Keone hopes viewers will take away from “Us Again.”
Mari hopes that the short film will make viewers “realize what is important” in their lives, encouraging them to not take the little things in life for granted.
Simonsen hopes that “Us Again” will remind viewers to be “thankful for the loved ones you have.”
“I hope that when people watch this film, they look at their grandparents and realize that they were kids once,” says Parrish. He hopes the short film will encourage younger family members to ask their grandparents about their youthful adventures.
“Us Again” premieres exclusively in theatres alongside “Raya and the Last Dragon” on March 5th, 2021. “Us Again” will be available to stream on Disney+ in June 2021.